An era of Phillies baseball truly ended on Wednesday.
As AP's Rob Maaddi reported first, Gary "Sarge" Matthews and Chris "Wheels" Wheeler were relieved of their broadcasting duties, and will take roles in the Phils' front office. The dismissal of Wheeler, who had been broadcasting Phillies games for 37 years and had his share of fans and critics, is particularly noteworthy in that not a single announcer remains from the 1993 NL-pennant winning season.
This really is earth-shattering stuff here, folks. The Phillies organization does not do this sort of thing. The Phillies do not fire people, especially broadcasters. They stick around forever.
Truly end of an era in #Phillies broadcast booth. Last season at least one of Harry the K, Ashburn or Wheels wasn't in the booth was 1962!— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) January 8, 2014
Of course, it was Comcast SportsNet who forced the Phils' hand, forcing out Wheels and Sarge. You would imagine the new 25-year, $2.5 billion TV contract had something to do with it.
Having a job in the Phillies broadcast booth is like being a Supreme Court justice. The only time a spot usually opens up is if someone retires or dies. Unfortunately, the passing of Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn in recent years has opened up spots for guys like Larry Andersen, Scott Franzke and Tom McCarthy.
Happily, Wheeler and Sarge will stay with the organization, assuming jobs in the front office. In fact, Wheeler is already hard at work, gettin' stuff done.
chris wheeler's first filed scouting report with the phillies: pic.twitter.com/rpHk1U51fw— joe м (@dr_pizza_MD) January 8, 2014
But now, another position has opened up, seemingly out of nowhere. And you can bet a line is forming to the left of the front door of 1 Citizens Bank Way for a job that could keep someone employed for the next two decades.
MLB.com's Todd Zolecki says both Comcast and the Phillies will have a say in who replaces Wheels and Sarge, and that it will likely be just one person, probably a former Phils player.
CSN has final say on new broadcaster, but Phils will be consulted. Just entered 25-yr partnership. CSN won't hire somebody Phils don't want.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) January 8, 2014
So, who could it be? Even though Wheels could be a bit much to handle at times, the man knew the game of baseball and had been around the team forever. And Sarge, well, he had his fans too, I suppose. But who would be the best man to team up with play-by-play man Tom McCarthy in the Phils' booth starting in 2014?
Zolecki listed a number of names who could be potential suitors for the job, and I've added one or two to the list. One of these gents is likely to land the lifetime gig, although a couple more names could come out of the woodwork now that the rarest job in professional sports has an opening.
I love Charlie Manuel, and the team did bring him back for an unspecified role with the organization. Coincidence? Yeah, probably. Let's face it, we all think the world of 'ol Cholly, but his thick West Virginia accent would likely require Comcast to use subtitles during broadcasts. And that can get kinda expensive. So, prolly no Cholly.
For some reason Pat the Bat's name has been circulating around the intergoogle, probably by fans who just think he's hilarious. And you know what? For sheer entertainment value? I agree, Burrell would be fantastic. And he does have experience as an MLB Scout, so he's continued to hang around the game. But he'd be more novelty than real baseball analyst, and I doubt the Phils would follow up a legacy like Wheeler with some newbie with no broadcasting experience. So, dream on, Phillies fans. This one ain't happening.
Kruk might actually be the perfect man to replace Wheeler and Sarge. He has experience calling games for the Phils, but his national ESPN contract and spot on Baseball Tonight may be too much for him to leave. Given the state of the Phillies in 2014, some levity in the broadcast booth might be welcome, and I would expect Comcast and the Phils to at least check in with John and feel him out.
Glanville is also an ESPN analyst, and his profile with the four-letter network has been growing over the last couple years. He'd be a cerebral choice, a true analyst who would bring some real player-expertise to the booth. He's also very good at the talking, and his ties to the area don't hurt either. That said, the Phillies might be looking for someone with more of an ability to be an entertainer, in the mold of Kruk or Andersen. Doug would be an excellent choice, maybe the best choice, and maybe he'd like to come home full-time. But my uneducated guess is he would stick with ESPN.
Schilling, also an ESPN analyst, certainly is outspoken enough and is not shy about sharing his opinion. But he may not be the voice the Phillies would want as the team prepares to head into what seems to be a down cycle. Not only that, even though he was recently inducted into the Phils Wall of Fame, his turbulent history with the franchise probably doesn't put him at the top of their list.
Plesac only played for parts of two seasons with the Phils, in 2002 and 2003, but he is an accomplished broadcaster, now with the MLB Network. As an in-studio analyst, Plesac would certainly be a safe pick to join McCarthy. Of course, like the rest of the national TV analysts previously mentioned, would Plesac want to leave his national TV gig to take a job that would force him to travel for much of the year, following a team for whom he only played a small fraction of his playing career? Probably not.
Mitchey-Poo is the national announcer who I think is most likely to get the job. Willliams talks... a lot... and he certainly has his detractors.
Please don't let Mitch Williams be Wheeler's replacement for Phils games, my mute button couldn't handle the abuse— Paul Boyé (@paul_boye) January 8, 2014
That said, he's a former player who is well-liked by Phils fans, is outspoken, and has the requisite on-air experience to warrant the job. Mitch doesn't like the sabermetric crowd a whole lot, which will certainly outrage the Phils fans who make Twitter a usual hang-out spot. But the Phillies don't like sabermetrics much either, so it may be a match made in heaven.
I don't know. CSN Philly's Ricky Bottalico might be a little too laid back for the gig.
You've gotta think Bottalico is one of the leading contenders to replace Sarge. He already works for Comcast, and has also previously been a color commentator for the Phils' AAA affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. Bottalico also mentioned on Twitter back in 2012 that he wants the job, although those tweets were taken down almost immediately after he posted them. For my money, he's the lead dog right now.
Coste is a writer and extremely well spoken guy who has worked as an analyst for Comcast SportsNet, although on a more limited basis than Ricky Bo. Zolecki also pointed out another reason why Coste, even if it were offered to him, may not want the job.
@Mike_Inacio Not sure Mitch would leave a national gig. Coste just became head baseball coach at his alma mater.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) January 8, 2014
So, take that for what it's worth.
Davis is not a former Phillie, but his extensive work on Comcast as an analyst and former player with Delaware County ties makes him a possible candidate. However, it's likely the team and Comcast would look at Bottalico and Coste before Davis, so I really doubt he's a serious possibility.
Hudler would be the most experienced color man of all these names mentioned, and certainly brings a "personality" to the job. He used to be the color guy for the Anaheim Angels, but was let go after the 2009 season and is now the color commentator for the Kansas City Royals, although some don't necessarily want him to continue in that current position. Hudler also has a past that the Phils may not be big fans of. For me, Rex-ey would be a bit much. One thing I don't think Phillies fans want is a loud, overbearing voice that can't stand to let a single second of silence go by. Their play-by-play guy already fills that role.
Moyer doesn't have a ton of broadcasting experience, but is seen as a well-spoken and intelligent baseball mind who would do well in the job. Moyer certainly is beloved in Philadelphia and his knowledge of the game is unquestioned. His Philly roots also make him an intriguing choice. I mean, if you're not going to make him your pitching coach, you might as well make him your analyst, right?
Lidge doesn't have a lot of TV experience, but has been a welcome addition to the MLB Radio Network as a part-time host. He's opinionated, knows how to talk, and his status as a bona fide Phillies hero would certainly compel Phils fans to welcome him back with open arms. Don't be surprised if Lidge gets the nod for the job. He'd be really good.
Yeah, I love Matt Stairs.
If I had to rank them, here would be the order of most likely to least likely to become the next color commentator for the Phillies.
- Ricky Bottalico
- Mitch Williams
- Brad Lidge (apparently, only relief pitchers can do this job)
- Jamie Moyer
- Doug Glanville
The list is long, and, well I don't know if distinguished is the word, but there are names of people who talk on TV on it, and that's pretty much what you have.
It'll be interesting to see if the removal of Wheeler and Sarge will turn out to be good for the broadcast, or make things worse. Because we're likely in for some not-so-great baseball in the next few years. It would be awesome if the new announce team can develop even a little bit of the kind of chemistry that Richie and Harry had, as they got us through the many, many lean years of Phils baseball.